Tuning a banjo can be difficult for beginners. To make it easier, we recommend buying an electronic chromatic tuner (available at our store). However, we´ll try to show you how to tune your banjo without one. This will also make things easier when using a tuner.
Standard bluegrass tuning for the five-string banjo is G, D, G, B, D (5th=G, 4th=D, 3rd=G, 2nd=B and 1st=D)
If the string is flat, its pitch or tone will be lower than it should be
If the note is sharp, its pitch or tone is higher than it should be
Start with the fourth string. As long as the fourth string is reasonably close to standard pitch, you can tune all rest of strings by starting from the 4th.
Use small movements on the pegs. In most cases, you will only be slightly out of tune or only have one string that is out.
It´s easier to tune (and the string will keep its pitch better) if you tune up to the note (tightening the string, not loosening it).
After the banjo is tuned, go back and re-check the tuning again as the bridge or strings may have moved slightly.
Other banjo tunings are:
Double C Tuning (G, C, G, C, D): One of the most popular banjo tunings for clawhammer style. This tuning gives your banjo a lower tone. If you don´t have a tuner in hand, from your banjo tuned to standard tuning, simply tune the 4th string down to C (equivalent to 2 frets) and raise the 2nd string one half-step from a B to C.
C Tuning (G, C, G, B, D): C tuning was often used at the beginning of the XX Century. The prefered tuning for classic banjo player. Simply drop down your 4th string to C to play some lovely classic banjo tunes.
D Tuning (F#, D, F#, A, D): When using this tuning, if you strum your banjo (without fretting it), you´ll be making a D chord. This tuning was used by Earl Scruggs on his “Reuben” song. Other option is to tune the 1st strings to A instead of F# and still will be a D chord.
G Modal Tuning (G, D, G, C, D): Sometimes called Sawmill tuning. Clawhammer players often use it for G modal tunes and play in the key of A.